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Have you heard of Air Wisconsin? If you’ve flown United Express through United’s Chicago O’Hare or Washington Dulles hubs, you’ve most likely traveled with them. Some of their flight attendants and passengers are speaking out about cabin comfort and working conditions, and we’ve noticed a pattern.

Hot, Sticky Airplane Cabins

As passengers are sweating it out due to inadequate cooling systems on board Air Wisconsin’s aging fleet of CRJ-200 jets, flight attendants are feeling frustration as their reports to management about this issue and others to do with passenger comfort are routinely ignored or indefinitely deferred. From what we hear, this is nothing new at Air Wisconsin.

“When we share what our passengers are saying about the lack of cool air conditioning, they don’t do anything but blame it on the hot weather. Passengers get off one mainline airplane where the air conditioning works just fine and onto our planes with no a/c, and they feel the difference. Passengers know how this works and some of them are having panic attacks when it gets to 90 degrees and higher on our planes” an Air Wisconsin flight attendant shared with us.

This hot, angry passenger spoke up from this
Air Wisconsin flight from Chicago to Milwaukee 

Inflight Service Considered Unimportant

When it comes to setting their priorities, Air Wisconsin has made it abundantly clear to their flight attendants that conditions in the cabin are not a company priority.

One flight attendant put it this way, “As long as the plane flies and generates revenue, that’s all management cares about. It’s pretty evident that if you’re a passenger or a flight attendant, they see you as a means to an end at most. Profit is the only thing that matters to them. You know, it didn’t use to be this way at Air Wisconsin, they cared about the customers and everyone who worked here too, but the newer management is heartless and in the end, none of it is good for business.”   

Some Get Wined and Dined

Pilots and Mechanics are offered bonuses on top of salary. Flight attendants are at or near poverty wages in many cases and no bonuses.

While others get left behind

Currently, Air Wisconsin is offering hefty bonuses ($57,000) to new-hire pilots and mechanics ($4,500-15,000) while simultaneously paying new flight attendants the same old poverty wages. Recent union contract negotiations reached a stalemate as management dug in its heels refusing to give flight attendants what would have been their first raise in 15 years. They just don’t think it’s necessary to invest in the people who interact with customers most.

In Virginia, home to United/United Express’ Washington Dulles hub, a new Air Wisconsin flight attendant is eligible to receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP) aka food stamps.

Air Wisconsin Flight Attendant Pay
$17.51 per hour x 70 hours per month= $14,708 per year
Max. Income for SNAP (food stamps) eligibility= $15,782

BTW, the median price for a 1-bedroom rental in the DC area is $2,200 per month and monthly income for Air Wisconsin flight attendants about $1225.00.

All Talk

From the Air Wisconsin website: 

“Air Wisconsin’s flight attendants are key players in our United Express flying operation. As dedicated professionals, their priority is the well-being of passengers, ensuring that each travel experience is safe, comfortable and secure. Additionally, our flight attendants pride themselves on offering top-notch customer service, providing a positive inflight environment.

Rushed Crews, Dirty Planes, Shoddy Facilities

Upon arrival at a destination, flight attendants are given 24 minutes to turn the plane which includes deplaning all inbound passengers, cleaning the aircraft, changing crews, the new crew must check security equipment and catering, and boarding outbound passengers. 24 minutes!

The Customer Experience Suffers

This 24-minute turn around policy doesn’t make it better for passengers being forced to endure untidy, hot airplane cabins staffed by exhausted flight attendants. It’s just another reminder of just how unimportant Air Wisconsin management feels their flight attendants and passengers really are.

The crew lounge from hell

The sparsely furnished crew room we peeked into, shared by over 150 pilots and flight attendants at Chicago O’Hare, has had boarded up broken windows for months and very little space for anything else but the overstuffed luggage carried by flight attendants that must often commute to base from where there is affordable housing.

Air Wisconsin Crew Lounge Areas

So remember the next time that you board a United Express flight operated by Air Wisconsin that you are with an airline that has placed inflight service as their lowest priority. Your Air Wisconsin flight attendants feel your pain and are doing everything they can to make it better.


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Air Wisconsin Flight Attendants Picket Airline For A Living Wage



Over 20 Air Wisconsin flight attendants picketed at the airport of Appleton, Wisconsin, which is home to the regional carrier that pays many of them as little as $15,000 a year and bases them in some of the most expensive areas of the country.

“To live in Washington DC on these wages is nearly impossible. People may say for me to get another job, but someone will still have to work for $15, 000 a year in Washington DC! What management is doing to hard working people is not right!” — Air Wisconsin flight attendant

“They are living in poverty wages,” said Toni Higgins, an Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International staff representative and former flight attendant to USA Today Network-Wisconsin

Ernie Lazernick, president of the Air Wisconsin unit of AFA-CWA to USA Today

“A lot of them end up working extra jobs, so they’re working 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet and pay their health care bills and food and lodging and their rent,” she said. “They want to take good care of their passengers and when you’re stressed about not being able to pay your bills, it’s really hard on them.”

“The airline industry has been very profitable over the years, and it’s their time to increase (flight attendants’) wages to a living wage.”

Lazernick pointed out that although AirWis management has refused to raise the pay of flight attendants since 2007, they have been offered bonuses.

Ernie Lazernick, president of the Air Wisconsin unit of AFA-CWA, said flight attendants are guaranteed 70 hours a month with a starting pay of $17.51. The company has so far responded with an offer of a 1.8 percent raise, and a subsequent offer of 2 percent.




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